Talking with the experts
Before anything else, we would like to mention and also thank our PIs (Mgr. Pavel Dvořák,Ph.D., Ing. RNDr. Martin Marek, Ph.D. and Mgr. Karel Říha, Ph.D.) who fearlessly threw themselves into another year of iGEM competition with us once again, and with whom we discussed the design of our project and workflow during the wet lab experiments.
The design of this year's project presented some challenges that we had to deal with. For this reason, it was necessary to reach out to a larger number of experts on the topics. However, as we were working once more with the same organism ( Bacillus subtilis ) and tried to solve the cyanobacteria problem again, just with a new perspective. We could partly use the contacts from last year. We also needed to see if our project could be translated into practical applications. Lastly, we wanted to get a biological and legal perspective on GMO regulation in the EU, which was our focus in Excellence in another area.
Molecular biology of Bacillus subtilis
Experts: Mgr. Libor Krásný, Ph.D. and RNDr. Mgr. Hana Šanderová, Ph.D.
We chose to work with Bacillus subtilis again, because of our experience and also by meeting our conditions on the organism. After their great help last year, we decided to contact Dr. Krásný and Mrs. Šanderová from the Laboratory of Microbial Genetics and Gene Expression at Czech Academy of Sciences, which is headed by Dr. Krásný, again. They have many years of experience in working with Bacillus subtilis and we were very happy that they were willing to help us again.
With Dr. Krásný and Mrs. Šanderová we firstly consulted the design of our constructs. Especially regarding our inducible repressor in Composite part D (BBa_K3831033), where they recommended the use of the Hyper-spank promoter. In the later stage of wet-lab experiments they helped us with troubleshooting our measurements on the FluoroMax Plus. They even sent us positive controls of Bacillus subtilis with GFP integrated into the chromosome or with a plasmid containing GFP.
Besides the above mentioned, it should also be added that it was thanks to them that we were able to obtain the strain of Bacillus subtilis with which we performed our wet-lab experiments.
Situation regarding cyanobacteria
Experts: Mgr. Rodan Geriš
Regarding the cyanobacteria overpopulation problem we already knew who to contact. And that person is Dr. Geriš, who works in Povodí Moravy, s.p., which manages all watercourses in Moravia region.
Dr. Rodan is an expert on water analysis with a focus on algae and cyanobacteria. First of all, he assured us that cyanobacterial blooms are a constant problem not only in the Czech Republic. Apart from the health risk, we discussed the economic difficulties, due to costly cleaning methods, fish kills, or the loss of tourists. Which is mainly due to the strong smell associated with the decomposition of excessive biomass.
We have learned that in order to prevent the explosive growth of cyanobacteria, we would have to reduce the concentration of phosphorus in the waters to 20-30 μg/l. This is a threshold above which the growth rate no longer changes enough, so reducing it below this level is a critical point with the method of fighting cyanobacteria by removing phosphorus from the waters.
Lastly, we discussed the most appropriate location for our modified organism. We were drawn to stagnant waters where phosphorus sedimentation occurs. Water treatment plants offer the most suitable location for phosphorus uptake, but it is important to consider the adsorption of heavy metals onto the cell wall of Bacillus subtilis. Either this problem would have to be circumvented somehow or application into rivers can be considered.
Applicability of our project
Experts: Doc. Ing. Pavel Ryant, Ph.D. and Ing. Miroslav Florián, Ph.D.
An important goal of our project is the subsequent applicability of the accumulated phosphorus in Bacillus subtilis. For this reason we decided to contact Dr. Ryant, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Agronomy at Mendel University in Brno, together with Dr. Florian from the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture.
Soils in the Czech Republic and elsewhere are gradually running out of phosphorus available for crops. Which would not be such a problem if the total supply of phosphorus for fertilisation were not decreasing along with it. Therefore, any methods for obtaining phosphorus from different sources are more than welcome. Moreover, to our advantage, we have found that there is no biological system in the Czech Republic that accumulates phosphorus for its subsequent reuse. Our system would certainly not be able to accumulate a quantity of phosphorus equal to chemical fertilisers. However, this is not at all a problem for two reasons: we are not trying to create competition with chemical fertilisers, but to come up with something that is partly self-sustainable. And any amount of phosphorus taken out of the water which is transferred back to the field is useful. In addition, our product could be used in organic farming as opposed to chemical fertilizers.
As for the necessary treatment of Bacillus subtilis, we found that heat treatment would be the most suitable and also the easiest. In addition, the unnecessary treatment of the phosphorus form that would be accumulated in our BMCs also plays in our favour, as the soil microflora can cope with this over time. This would reduce the subsequent cost of our product to a minimum. Of course, it is possible to treat the thermally inactivated biomass with acids that would cause the formation of a more active, more readily acceptable, form of phosphorus. However, due to the higher costs, this is not our goal.
The most gratifying circumstance was the desire on the part of Dr. Ryant, if successful, for further cooperation in the form of testing the effectiveness of our fertilizer.
GMO regulation in European Union (EU)
Experts: Mgr. Karel Říha, Ph.D. and Mgr. Et Mgr. Michal Bobek, Diploma, M.Jur., MRes., Ph.D.
For Excellence in another area, we decided to show the flaws in GMO regulation in the EU. In addition to bringing the directives closer, we also wanted an expert opinion on the matter, from the perspective of science and law. The law perspective was given by Dr. Bobek who has served as the Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) between 2015-2021. And more regarding this is said on the Excellence in another area page. The science perspective was provided by Dr. Říha. In addition to being one of the PIs for our project, he is part of the Think-tank that is trying to convince the EU not to apply the same restrictive laws to the CRISPR-Cas9 method as to other genome editing methods. In addition, he is the Deputy Director for Research of the Ceitec institute, which has just been highlighted as a good example of how to intervene against the CRISPR-Cas9 restrictions.
Looking firstly at the potential problems, the discussion suggested that it would be preferable to examine genetically modified (GM) products on a case-by-case basis rather than by the methods used, as is the case in other non-EU countries, for example. In the first instance, there is a risk of an outflow of know-how on genome editing outside the EU, as it will be difficult to find funding for projects trying to transfer editing from model organisms to the crops used. Furthermore, there is a risk of economic disadvantage for the EU as imported CRISPR-Cas9 edited crop products that undergo multiple editing will be indistinguishable from unedited crop products. This will put EU farmers at a disadvantage, as adapted crops have higher yields and can grow in more inhospitable areas.
A further often voiced reason for the introduction of CRISPR-Cas9 restrictions is the fear of a monopoly on adapted crops, but this is refuted by, for example, Argentina. Where, by dealing with GM products on a case-by-case basis, they have achieved greater collaboration between farmers and emerging companies in universities.
Lastly, Dr. Říha mentioned that it is very important to spread more awareness amongst genome editing methods to avoid spreading fear of the unknown through public. And this is also one of the reasons why we created our lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass.
Talking to the general public
Our team prides itself on two-way communication with the general public. As part of our educational activities, we provide others with source-based information, on the basis of which we then build a discussion on the general possibilities, risks and benefits of GMOs. However, we are also interested in the public's opinion on specific issues related to our project. We have therefore created two public opinion surveys, the results of which have been taken into account at several levels of our project (Integrated Human Practices).
Integrated Human Practices: When creating the project for 2021, we took into account some negative responses to the fact that our CYANOTRAP project (2020) was addressing only the effect of the problem (= cyanobacterial overgrowth) and not its cause (= high phosphate concentrations in surface waters that allow cyanobacteria to overgrow). That is why we decided to focus this year's project on the phosphorus cycle in nature.
Public opinion poll - March 2021
In March, our team was trying to find the theme for this year's project. We wanted to address an important issue affecting many people, so that society would perceive our project as beneficial and meaningful. We asked a wide range of questions to get the public's perspective on many aspects of our work.
Integrated Human Practices: Thanks to the results of the survey, we not only decided on the topic of the project, but also came up with an activity on Excellence in another area that would benefit both us and the public. We were also inspired by the results of the survey to add some content to the lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass. In it, we focused on presenting enough verified and substantiated information on issues on which a large number of respondents do not have a strong opinion. Thus, we have prepared quality materials on the basis of which the public will be able to form their own opinion in an informed way. In the following paragraphs we describe what we learned from each question and how it influenced our project.
Introduction of the questionnaire
At the beginning, the respondents were briefly introduced to our team and the purpose of the questionnaire by the following text:
This quiz is designed to survey public opinion on various aspects of our project.
We are a team of students from Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology and Comenius University determined to successfully represent the Czech Republic at iGEM - an international synthetic biology competition!
Last year we managed to win a gold medal and place among the top 5 environmental projects in our age category. In addition to the iGEM competition, we focus on popularizing science using our association Generation Mendel z.s., which is why your opinion is very important to us!
A total of 278 respondents
completed our first questionnaire. All of them declared
that they were over 15 years old, agreed to processing
their responses anonymously for the purposes mentioned
above, confirmed that they were free to ask any questions
about the project or the survey, and acknowledged that
their participation was voluntary and that they could stop
completing the survey at any time.
Figure 1: Graphical representation of responses to Question 1 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 2: To which gender identity do you most identify?
Of the 278 respondents, 67 identify as a man,
210 as a woman and 1 as other gender. We are aware that it
would have been useful to have respondents with a more even
and representative gender distribution. We see the reason
for the difference in gender representation in the fact
that mostly women follow us on social media, where we had
shared and promoted the questionnaire.
Figure 2: Graphical representation of responses to Question 2 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 3: What is your age?
60.1% of respondents fall into the age
category 20-25 years and the other age categories are also
unevenly represented. The reason for the difference in the
representation of age groups is that we are mainly followed
by our friends and classmates on social media, where the
questionnaire was shared and promoted.
Figure 3: Graphical representation of responses to Question 3 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 4: What is the highest degree or level of school you have completed?
We also asked our respondents about their
highest degree or level of education they have completed.
The diversity in this parameter is better distributed than
in the previous cases, but there is still one prevailing
category - 37.1 % of our respondents currently study at a
university with a major other than Science. The other
categories are more or less evenly distributed.
Figure 4: Graphical representation of responses to Question 4 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Main part of the questionnaire
In the main part of the questionnaire, we asked respondents a total of 14 questions focusing on several smaller topics. We tailored the results from these questions to our project at several levels, which will be described for the critical questions.
Question 5: To which application should we direct our work?
Question 5 asks about the sector of human activity that should benefit from our project. 54% of respondents agreed that we should focus on ecological issues, while 28.8% of respondents believe that we should work on a project whose outcome would be applicable to agriculture. The last two places were occupied by industry (9.4%) and personal use (7.9%).
Integrated Human Practices: The feedback from last year's project solidified our decision to focus on the phosphorus cycle in nature. But how to grasp this problem? We could have developed a system to eliminate phosphate leakage from factories, a system to retain phosphate from fertilizers in fields to prevent it from washing into water bodies, or a system for domestic use that would capture phosphate from washing powder, or water flowing out of the washing machine. However, based on the answers to this question, we opted for an environmentally focused system that would capture phosphates from all three of the above sources from water bodies, thus doing the most to help protect the ecosystem.
As we worked on the
project, we also realized that we could connect more of the
areas in our project. Our ultimate goal would be to connect
them all. We would like to create a device that would
capture phosphate from water bodies, the captured phosphate
would then be recycled and reused as a fertilizer for
agricultural or domestic use, or as a source of phosphorus
for industry. For more information, see Implementation.
Figure 5: Graphical representation of responses to Question 5 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
In questions 6, 7 and 8 we wanted to check whether public interest in the issue of environmental pollution and in particular cyanobacteria overpopulation is as high as last year.
Question 6: Please rate how strongly you perceive environmental pollution as a factor that harms your health.
From the answers to Question 6, we learned that almost 70% of respondents perceive environmental pollution as a factor with a major impact on their health (values 4 and 5).
Integrated Human Practices: From the results of this question we found that the public is more likely to perceive a link between the state of the environment and their health. This suggests to us that a project addressing cyanobacteria overgrowth (and thus reducing the amount of cyanobacterial toxins in the water) could be perceived by the public as positive and therefore may be easier to take to the implementation stage. With this information, we were reassured that we had chosen an appropriate project topic.
Figure 6: Graphical representation of responses to Question 6 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 7: Do you see cyanobacteria overpopulation as a big problem?
Question 8: Do you consider cyanobacteria pollution to be a threat to your health?
Questions 7 and 8 already ask specifically about cyanobacteria. These two similar questions explore the public's view of cyanobacterial overgrowth per se and of cyanobacterial overgrowth as a threat to human health. We find that nearly 80% of respondents perceive cyanobacterial overgrowth as a major problem, and as many as 87.1% perceive cyanobacterial overgrowth to be a threat to their health.
Integrated Human Practices: The responses to these two questions reinforced our belief that following up on last year's project theme was the right choice.
Figure 7: Graphical representation of responses to Question 7 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Figure 8: Graphical representation of responses to Question 8 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 9: Have you heard that phosphorus in waters contributes to cyanobacteria overgrowth?
In Question 9, we asked about public awareness of the link between phosphate levels in water and cyanobacteria overgrowth. It showed us that only 56.1% of respondents had ever heard of phosphate in water contributing to cyanobacteria overgrowth.
Integrated Human Practices: The takeaway from this question is that it is important to increase public awareness of this issue. We have written about the link between excessive phosphates in water on our social media and this topic was also mentioned in our GMO Under the Magnifying Glass lecture.
Figure 9: Graphical representation of responses to Question 9 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 10: What human activity do you think is most responsible for excess phosphorus in water in the Czech Republic?
In Question 10, we asked how informed the public is about the sources of phosphate in surface waters. According to the Integrated Pollution Register of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, the most significant anthropogenic phosphorus emissions include the use of phosphate fertilizers and polyphosphates in detergents . Out of our 278 respondents, 43% think that detergents are involved and 33.6% consider agriculture as the largest source of phosphate pollution. Thus, only 23.4% of respondents have incorrect information about this issue. Even so, we believe that this number needs to be reduced even further.
Integrated Human Practices: We discuss various sources of phosphate pollution with the public both on our social networks and in the GMO Under the Magnifying Glass lecture.
Figure 10: Graphical representation of responses to Question 10 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
The rest of the questions were not related to the actual topic of the laboratory part of our project, but were used to find out information we needed for other aspects of our work. They were mainly related to public awareness and opinions on the regulation of GMO use in the European Union and on GMO food.
Question 11: How do you evaluate the regulation of GMO in the European Union?
In Question 11 we asked about the respondents' opinion on the regulation of GMO use in the European Union. 12.6% of respondents think that the regulation of GMOs in the EU is too strict, 15.5% think that it is adequate and 9.7% think that it is insufficient. However, 62.2% of respondents have no opinion on this issue.
Integrated Human Practices: More than a half of the respondents have no opinion on the stringency of regulation of GMO use in the European Union. Since people form their opinion based on the available information, we decided to make it available to people. We have looked at a large number of sources and summarised the relevant information both in the Excellence in another area and in our lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass, where we devote a large chapter to this issue. In this way, we want to provide the public with verified and substantiated information in a comprehensible form on the basis of which they can form their own opinion if they wish to do so.
Figure 11: Graphical representation of responses to Question 11 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 12: Do you think national governments should become more involved in addressing environmental crises?
Question 12 asks for respondents' views on the
involvement of national governments in addressing
environmental crises. We find that 97.5% of respondents
think that national governments should be more involved in
this issue than they have been.
Figure 12: Graphical representation of responses to Question 12 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 13: Do you know any specific example of GMO use? If so, what is it?
In the open-ended Question 13, we ask whether respondents know any GMOs. 120 respondents (43.17%) stated that they do not know any example of GMOs. Responses from other respondents varied widely in the degree of accuracy of the description of the GMO example - from the general and misleading "vegetables and fruits" to the precise "Golden Rice, BT corn". The vast majority of respondents mentioned just food GMOs, with only a few cases mentioning laboratory use of GMOs or preparation of insulin.
Integrated Human Practices: In the lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass we describe, for example, the preparation of insulin using GMOs and compare it with the previously used isolation of insulin from pig pancreas, and we also talk about the preparation of new supermaterials - for example spider silk in goat milk. This is our way to make people more aware of different uses of GMOs.
Question 14: Do you think GMO foods should be available on the market?
In Question 14 we ask respondents whether they think GM foods should be available on the market. 37.4% of respondents are of the opinion that modified foods should appear on the shelves, 21.2% are against. 41.1% of respondents remain undecided.
Integrated Human Practices: Since people form their opinion based on the information available, we decided to make it available to them. We have searched a large number of sources and summarized important information from them in the lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass , where we explain different methods of plant and animal breeding, compare them with genetic engineering methods and above all give objective information on the myths that circulate about GM food. In this way, we want to provide the public with verified and substantiated information in an understandable form, on the basis of which they will be able to form their own opinion if they wish to do so.
Figure 13: Graphical representation of responses to Question 14 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 15: Do you think that foods containing GMO should be specially labelled?
Question 15 follows on from the previous
question. Assuming that GM foods would be allowed to be
sold, respondents are asked whether these foods should be
specially labelled. Over 85% of respondents think that GM
foods should carry a special label that would easily
distinguish them from conventional foods, 14.7% think that
this distinction is not necessary.
Figure 14: Graphical representation of responses to Question 15 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 16: Would you buy GM food or other GMO products?
Question 16 builds on the previous questions.
Here we were interested in whether the respondents would
buy GM food or another GMO product. We found that 55% of
respondents would buy a GMO product, 45% would
Figure 15: Graphical representation of responses to Question 16 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 17: What is your opinion on laboratory substitutes for meat and other animal products?
At the time the questionnaire was published, there was a lot of talk about synthetic meat. We were interested in how the public views this particular GMO product, because its production can be beneficial both from an ecological and ethical point of view. We found that 37.1% of respondents had a positive opinion of GM meat substitute products and 29.5% had a negative opinion. 33.5% of respondents have no opinion.
Figure 16: Graphical representation of responses to Question 17 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Question 18: Do you think that a certain genetic modification can significantly change the characteristics of agricultural food? For example, taste or colour?
In the last question of the March questionnaire, we asked the public if they think genetic modification can significantly change the characteristics of food - for example, taste or colour. We wanted to know how the public actually perceives genetic modification and whether they perceive its possibilities and whether it has any limits. We found that 86.3% of respondents think it is possible to fundamentally change the properties of food through genetic modification, 13.7% think it is not possible in the real world.
Integrated Human Practices: In our lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass we included a description of the preparation of genetically modified organisms and the differences between GMO and organisms created by classical breeding to make it easier for the public to imagine these processes and better understand their possibilities and limits.
Figure 17: Graphical representation of responses to Question 18 in the Public opinion poll - March 2021.
Public opinion poll - September 2021
By September, we had already done most of the lab work and had a clear idea of how our project should work on a biological level. However, we had several possible visions for how our system could be used in the real world. So we decided to reach out to the public again and see which of our ideas would be best received and most likely to make it to market.
Introduction of the questionnaire
To start the questionnaire, respondents were briefly introduced to our team and the purpose of holding a public opinion survey using the following text:
This questionnaire serves to survey public opinion primarily on the practical application of the Phoscage project.
We are a team of students from Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology, and Comenius University determined to successfully represent the Czech Republic at iGEM - an international synthetic biology competition!
Last year we managed to win a gold medal and place among the top 5 environmental projects in our age category. Besides the iGEM competition, we focus on popularizing science within our association Generation Mendel z.s., which is why your opinion is so important to us!
This text was followed by the first question.
Question 1: I am over 15 years of age, I agree to the anonymous processing of my answers for the above purposes, I confirm that I have had the opportunity to ask any questions about the project or the survey, and I acknowledge that my participation is voluntary and that I may discontinue completing the survey at any time.
253 respondents completed our survey. All of them answered "Yes" to this question.
Figure 18: Graphical representation of responses to Question 1 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 2: Gender
Same as in the first
questionnaire, we managed to reach mostly women. We are
aware that it would have been useful to have respondents
with a more equal and representative gender representation.
We see the reason for the difference in gender
representation in the fact that mostly women follow us on
social media, where the questionnaire was shared and
Figure 19: Graphical representation of responses to Question 2 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 3: Age
The next question asked the age of the
respondents. Compared to the first questionnaire, we were
able to reduce the representation of the 20-25 age group
from 60.1% to 45.1%, and we also observed a more even
representation among the other age groups. However, we are
aware that the age composition of our respondent group is
not fully representative.
Figure 20: Graphical representation of responses to Question 3 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 4: What is the highest degree or level of education you have completed?
In the next question, we asked for the level
of education of our respondents. Again, we managed to get a
slightly more representative group of respondents than in
the first questionnaire - the most represented group is
only 33% of respondents instead of 37% as it was in the
Figure 21: Graphical representation of responses to Question 4 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 5: What is your general view on genetic modification? (1 = absolutely negative, 10 = absolutely positive)
In the last question of the statistical part
of the questionnaire, we asked respondents about their
general opinion on genetic modifications. Ideally, the
answers to this question should have a normal distribution,
but given the composition of our followers on the social
networks (mainly young people and academics) where we
distributed the questionnaire, both the median and mean are
above 5 (mean = 7.27, median = 8).
Figure 22: Graphical representation of responses to Question 5 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Main part of the questionnaire
In the main part of the questionnaire, we asked respondents a total of 11 questions focused on practical aspects of the application of our Phoscage system. We adapted the results from these questions to our Implementation.
This section begins with the following text:
The following questions relate specifically to our project. Please read the short description:
For the 2021 edition of the iGEM competition, the team from Brno created a biological design for a system for phosphate removal from water. The system is based on the use of a genetically modified (GM) bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, which is commonly found in nature in soil and is not dangerous for humans.
We propose that this bacterium should be modified to be able to measure the amount of phosphates in water. If phosphates exceed a certain threshold concentration, the bacterium will set up a system to pick it up. This consists of an enzyme that will bind the phosphate into long chains (polyphosphate kinase) and protein vesicles (bacterial microcompartments, BMCs) that will enclose the phosphate chains.
According to the design, these modified bacteria will be placed in water in a device that will prevent them from escaping into the environment. After a period of time, the bacteria with the accumulated phosphates will be removed from the water, inactivated, and can be further utilized.
Our system should allow partial recycling of phosphates that are currently only consumed. This is unsustainable in the long term, both because of the depletion of phosphate reserves and because of its negative impact on the environment. In fact, high concentrations of phosphate in surface waters cause an overgrowth of cyanobacteria, which release toxins into the water that are dangerous to humans and the entire ecosystem.
Question 6: What would be a sufficient "inactivation" of genetically modified organisms for you?
In this question we asked about the public opinion on GMO inactivation. We wanted to find out how much GMO bacteria from our system must be destroyed to be considered inactivated = harmless, by the public.
We found that for the largest group of people (33.6%), sufficient inactivation would mean killing the bacteria with thorough degradation of their DNA (e.g. using UV light). However, if we wanted to satisfy more than half of the respondents, only bacterial microcompartments with polyphosphate chains would have to be isolated from our bacteria and further used. We also found that almost 27% of respondents did not know how to answer this question.
Integrated Human Practices: Thanks to the result of this question, we can include in a possible campaign to promote our system an explanation of the procedural implications of different approaches to "inactivate" our bacteria and their DNA. If, based on the information we have provided, people decide on one of the methods listed in the graph, this could help us in making final decision on this issue.
Figure 23: Graphical representation of responses to Question 6 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Before answering further questions, respondents were reminded to imagine each time the method of "inactivation" of GMOs that they perceive as safe/sufficient.
Question 7: Would you agree with the use of “inactivated” GMOs as fertilizer in agriculture?
In this question, our aim was to find out if people would be willing to agree to the use of "inactivated" GMOs as fertilizer in agriculture if the "inactivation" of GMOs was done in a way they trusted. We found that almost 58% of respondents agree with this use, 12.6% are against it and close to 30% have no opinion on the matter despite the fact that "inactivation" would take place in their chosen method. This result shows a persistent distrust towards GMOs or the means to kill them.
Integrated Human Practices: There is no room for addressing the issue of sterilization in our lecture GMO Under the Magnifying Glass, but we could still talk about it with the public. We could do this, for example, in our online courses - we could create a course on sterilization methods, bacteriostatic and bactericidal products.
Figure 24: Graphical representation of responses to Question 7 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 8: Would you agree with the use of "inactivated" GMOs as fertilizer for food crops?
In this question, we asked how public opinion would differ from the previous question if we talked specifically about fertilising food crops. Support for the use of GMO fertilisers has fallen from 57.7% to 39.9% and the percentage of negative responses has risen from 12.6% to 26.9%, indicating that people are more worried about contact with what they eat rather than the general use of GMO fertilisers. Respondents with no opinion had a little bit bigger representation than in the previous question - a full 33.2%.
Integrated Human Practices: There are two takeaways from the answers to this question. First, the public is less inclined to use GMO fertilizers for food cultivation than for general agricultural use. We worked with this information in the Implementation and suggested alternative uses for our GMO fertilizer that could be acceptable for more people. Second, one third of the respondents have no opinion on this issue. Again, we will strive to provide clear and substantiated information to the public so that people can form an informed opinion.
Figure 25: Graphical representation of responses to Question 8 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 9: In your opinion, should food that has come into contact with GMO fertiliser be specially labelled? (for example, vegetables directly fertilised in this way, as well as dairy products coming from cows fed with feed that has been fertilised this way)
In this question we were asking respondents' opinion on labelling food that came into contact with GMO fertilizer. We found that 64.4% of respondents think that these foods should be specially labelled, 17% do not require such labelling and 18.6% have no opinion. It can be seen here that in the case of food labelling the public is more clear than in other issues related to GM foods.
Integrated Human Practices: If our system ever got to the stage of real use, we would create a special symbol for GMO fertilizers that we would put on all products treated with the GMO fertilizer to satisfy the public, even if the legislation did not require it. Along with the symbol, we could also put a short explanatory text on the packaging of these foods to make it clear to customers what is the link to GMOs.
Figure 26: Graphical representation of responses to Question 9 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 10: Would you buy food labeled "GMO fertilized"?
In a follow-up question we asked respondents whether they would buy food labelled "GMO fertilized". We found that 53.8% of respondents would buy the food, 11.9% would not and 34.4% had no opinion on this question.
Integrated Human Practices: We found that 53.8% of respondents would buy food labeled as "GMO fertilized", which is probably not a satisfactory customer representation for preparing a business plan. For further planning of the use of our fertilizer system, the views of people who did not express any opinion here (34.4%) would need to be explored in more detail, which could be the subject of another Public Opinion Poll. However, from the current result, it seems that the use of GMO fertilisers for growing food is not a path that is supported by a sufficient number of end-users.
Figure 27: Graphical representation of responses to Question 10 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 11: Would you agree with the use of "inactivated" GMOs as fertilizer for industrial crops?
In this question, we were interested in whether the public is more open to the use of GMO fertilizer produced by inactivating bacteria from the Phoscage system when fertilizing plants grown for industrial use. We found that this is indeed the case. A full 63.6% of respondents are positive about this use of GMOs and only 11.9% reject it. Again, there is a relatively large group of respondents with no opinion (24.5%).
Integrated Human Practices: The answers to this question show us that the use of fertilisers prepared by us for growing industrial crops is a direction we should focus on, as it would meet with much less public disapproval than fertilising food crops this way. We have used this information in the preparation of our Phoscage Implementation.
Figure 28: Graphical representation of responses to Question 11 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 12: Would you agree to the use of "inactivated" GMOs as fertiliser for direct consumers? (domestic use - house plants, own garden)
In the next question, we were interested in whether the public would support the possibility of fertilizing their own plants with fertilizer made with bacteria from the Phoscage system. We found that 53% of respondents support this idea, 16.6% are opposed and 30.4% have no opinion.
Integrated Human Practices: We see that the domestic use of GMO fertilizer has more support than fertilizing food crops, but less support than fertilizing industrial crops. This may be due to the fact that people would like to fertilize indoor plants that are not for consumption at home this way. As houseplants are becoming more and more popular, especially among the younger generation, this could be a promising way of using our fertiliser.
Figure 29: Graphical representation of responses to Question 12 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 13: If you have any, do you fertilize your plants?
Question 13 seeks additional information to the previous question. We find that 76.7% of respondents grow plants at home, and of these, two-thirds fertilise them (50.2% of the total number of respondents).
Integrated Human Practices: From the answers to this question we found that three quarters of the respondents grow plants at home and two thirds of them fertilize their plants. Which shows a potentially large target group for the sale of our GMO fertilizer.
Figure 30: Graphical representation of responses to Question 13 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 14: Would you use our fertilizer at home?
In the next question, we asked respondents
whether they would use our fertilizer at home.
Unfortunately, the question was written poorly and we got a
split between the last question and this one - different
numbers of people answered that they do not grow any plants
at home. 58.1% of respondents answered positively to this
question, 23.7% answered negatively.
Figure 31: Graphical representation of responses to Question 14 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 15: Would you agree with the use of phosphates produced by our engineered bacteria in the chemical industry?
In Question 15, we moved away from the idea of using bacteria from the Phoscage system as fertilizer and asked respondents if they would agree to use phosphates extracted from water using GMOs, as a substrate for industry. We found that the public thought this to be the least problematic use of GMO products. 74.3% of respondents would agree with this use of phosphates, 22.1% of respondents had no opinion, and only 3.6% of respondents would be opposed.
Integrated Human Practices: From the answers to this question we can clearly see that the industrial usage of our GMO products is the least problematic to the public. We have used this result to compile our Implementation.
Figure 32: Graphical representation of responses to Question 15 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
Question 16: Do you think it would be better to implement the system in wastewater treatment plants, water bodies, or rivers?
In the last question of the questionnaire, we asked respondents where they thought it would be best to apply Phoscage. We found that 65.6% of respondents thought Phoscage should be applied in wastewater treatment plants, 27.3% would be more willing to accept their usage for water bodies, 3.6% for rivers and the same number of respondents for other uses.
Integrated Human Practices: It is clear from the results of this question that most respondents consider wastewater treatment plants to be the best place to use the Phoscage system. We have also incorporated this view into our Implementation.
Figure 33: Graphical representation of responses to Question 16 in the Public opinion poll - September 2021.
All the other content comes from our two Public opinion polls.